American forces have taken custody of a Taliban fighter who claims to be a US citizen and appears to have enjoyed a privileged, middle-class upbringing in the nation's capital.
The Pentagon confirmed yesterday that the 20-year-old had been injured and was being treated by US medics after he was identified among about 80 Taliban and al-Qa'ida fighters who eventually surrendered after they holed-up at a prison camp near Mazar-i-Sharif.
The magazine Newsweek has identified the man as John Philip Walker Lindh, of Fairfax, California, who converted to Islam four years ago and had spent time in Islamic schools in Pakistan. He said he had spent the last six months fighting for the Taliban.
"The Taliban are the only government that actually provides Islamic law," said the man, who called himself Abdul Hamid. In the Newsweek interview, the man's mother, Marilyn Walker, described her son as a "sweet, shy kid" who had gone to Pakistan with an Islamic humanitarian group.
She said the reports of his capture were the first news she had received of her son's whereabouts since he left a religious school in Pakistan.
"If he got involved in the Taliban, he must have been brainwashed," she said. "He was isolated. He didn't know a soul in Pakistan. When you're young and impressionable, it's easy to be led by charismatic people."
Mrs Walker said her son was born in Washington and that she and his father, Frank Lindh, a lawyer, were divorced.
The Pentagon spokesman said he could not confirm the man's identify or whether he was a US citizen. He said: "US military forces in Afghanistan have in their control a man who calls himself a US citizen. He was among al-Qa'ida and Taliban prisoners held by the northern alliance in Mazar-i-Sharif."
There are reports of a second American citizen among the surrendered Taliban forces.Reuse content